October 28, 2019
Below is a lesson from Harvard Business Review about how to stop using too many crutch words and embrace using a pause, as well as our key learning.
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How to Stop Saying “Um,” “Ah,” and “You Know”
AUGUST 01, 2018
When we find ourselves rattled while speaking — whether we’re nervous, distracted, or at a loss for what comes next — it’s easy to lean on filler words. These may give us a moment to collect our thoughts before we press on, and in some cases, they may be useful indicators that the audience should pay special attention to what comes next. But when we start to overuse them, they become crutches — academics call them disfluencies — that diminish our credibility and distract from our message.
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- When we find ourselves rattled while speaking it’s easy to lean on filler words. These may give us a moment to collect our thoughts before we press on, and in some cases, they may be useful indicators that the audience should pay special attention to what comes next. But when we start to overuse them, they become crutches/disfluencies — that diminish our credibility and distract from our message.
- Optimum frequency is about one filler per minute, but the average speaker uses five fillers per minute — or, one every twelve seconds
- Three critical factors are significantly negatively correlated with too many fillers
- When you use excessive fillers, audiences are less likely to hang onto your every word because the fillers get in the way of the emotional stories or fascinating research you’re trying to share.
- Audiences want to believe that you are acting and speaking naturally. Fillers distract from your core personality and make you sound nervous, distracted, or disengaged rather than authentic
- If you want your audience to buy into your message – filtering through crutch words to catch the important parts requires more cognitive effort than audiences are willing to put forth.
- Studies suggest that we verbalize hesitations because we’ve been conditioned to fill the void even when we don’t have something to say.
- Great public speakers often pause for two to three seconds or even longer. Our phonetic data shows that the average speaker only uses 3.5 pauses per minute, and that’s not enough.
- For many speakers, even the briefest pause can feel like an interminable silence. That’s because we tend to think faster than we speak. Because of this discrepancy, when you’re giving a speech, your perception of time is often distorted.
- Well-placed pauses make you sound calm and collected, and they help three ways:
- Collect your thoughts: If you lose your train of thought, a pause gives you time to get back on track. (No more than five seconds).
- Calm your nerves: Taking a pause before starting a speech is especially important for people with a fear of public speaking, as it helps calm nerves. The tactic is useful in the middle of a speech as well. If you find yourself getting flustered, pause briefly to take a deep breath.
- Build suspense: Strategically placed silence can build suspense, emphasize a point, or give the audience time to absorb a key insight.
- Three Steps to Silencing Crutch Words
- The first step in changing any habit is awareness. To identify your crutch words, videotape or review a transcript of your most recent talk, and determine what vocal fillers you rely on most. Pair your crutch words with small actions.
- Begin forcing yourself to be silent. Practice using pauses instead of filler words as you recall the events.
- Importance of preparation enough. Nerves are one of the biggest reasons people overuse vocal fillers. Experts recommends speakers get in at least three full runs before stepping in front of an audience.